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Missa Solemnis in D Major

Ludwig Van Beethoven
(1770-1827)



The immortal "Missa Solemnis" of Beethoven occupied him three years in composition. He had intended it to be sung at the installation of Archduke Rudolph as Bishop of Olmutz, in 1820, but it was finished too late and its first complete performance took place in Russia. The Mass has the five principal divisions, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The Kyrie begins with a majestic introduction by orchstra and organ. After a pause, the strings introduce a phrase and after a few bars the chorus with organ and full orchestra intone the Kyrie three times, with solo voices making them a solemn appeal. The "Christe eleison," based upon the scripture motives, leads to a new movement, introduced by orchestra and then taken successively by soloist and chorus. The Kyrie then returns.

The opening theme of the Gloria is one of sacred enthusiasm. It is first given out by organ and orchestra, then taken up by one section of the chorus after the other, all at the last uniting in a unison, "In Exelsis Deo." As it comes to a tranquil close, the basses, followed by the whole chorus, sing the "Et in Terra Pax." The Gloria theme is heard again in the orchestra followed by the "Laudamus Te" sung in unison. After a pause the chorus chants the "Adoramus" and the basses in both orchestra and chorus intone the "Glorificamus Te." The beautiful "Gratias agimus" follows successively by solo tenor, the other parts and chorus. The Gloria motive returns and leads to an impressive choral climax, "Pater omniponens." The "Qui tollis" which shortly follows and the "Quoniam Tu solus sanctus," by the tenors and "Quoniam Tu solus Dominus" are followed by a mighty fugue which closes the Gloria with the full power of organ, orchestra and chorus.





The Credo, preceded by a short symphonic passage, is announced in three sections of the chorus successively and closes with a fugue on the words "Et Vitam venturi," followed by a majestic Coda. The sanctus opens with an orchestral introduction followed by the movements "Pleni sunt Coeli" and "Osanne," the latter leading to a prelude which prepares the way for the beautiful Benedictus. At the last measure of the Benedictus a violin solo with flute accompaniment begins, leading to the chorus. The basses give out the Benedictus, the violin continuing. The soloists also take up the theme, and the movement comes to a close with the soloists, chorus and orchestra intoning the theme.

The Agnus Dei is sombre in color, and its expression very intense. The "Dona nobis Pacem" is extremely melodious, but the flow of the melody is soon interrupted by the rolling of the drums and the ring of the trumpets. The alto soloist declaims the Agnus Dei. The drums and trumpets are again heard. The tenor and soprano soloist repeat the appeal. The chorus shouts "Miserere nobis," but the tumult soon passes and the original theme returns. A martial symphonic passage follows and at last the "Missa Solennis" closes beautifully and restfully.





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